'Bill' Carling and other odd stories

How good at you are taking in the news? How well-informed are you on current affairs? Would John Birt be proud of your ability to grasp world events? Well, here's a quick, fun way to find out! I have printed below seven news stories that may or may not have happened in the past week or so. All you have to do is read them and then decide which ones you think are the fake stories.

1. As it has become increasingly embarrassing for John Major or any cabinet minister to address the dwindling numbers of Scottish Conservatives - and indeed decreasingly cost-effective to do so - it has been decided from now on that whenever the Scottish Tory party gets together in large numbers (ie, over 10) for such gatherings, they will travel down to London to be addressed by the PM and other senior Tories, paying for the trip at their own expense.

2. It now emerges that the Will Carling sacking story was not at all what it seemed to be. According to one England three-quarter who can afford to remain anonymous, many of the England team were unhappy at Will Carling being selected for South Africa. This was partly because they were jealous of his earning so much more money than the rest of them, partly because they thought he wasn't such a great captain and player anyway, and partly because they were embarrassed at having to address a young man by a name like Will, which more properly belonged in the Twenties (like Will Hay) or in the days of Robin Hood (Will Scarlett, etc). So they sent a deputation to the RFU asking for Carling to be fired, and Dennis Easby took the first chance to do so, in deference to the players. Unfortunately, it backfired when the public outcry took Carling's side. Only Carling himself is unaware of what happened, and cannot understand why the players are calling him Bill.

3. A poll of Tory MPs showed that their casualty rate is now so high that more than 75 per cent of them feel that Tory MPs should be armed at all times. At least 50 per cent of them feel they should be armed personally by Jonathan Aitken MP.

4. The following exchange took place on the Today programme earlier this week.

Gerry Malone: "I cannot see how any industrial action by the nurses can fail to affect the patients. It is simply foolish to imagine that you can take industrial action as a nurse and not affect the patients. Anything that is not in the patients' best interests must be condemned."

Interviewer: "Well, if that were true, you might as well condemn the Tory party for everything they have done to give the patient a bad deal in the last 15 years. The industrial action proposed in desperation by the nurses is as nothing to the industrial action taken by the Tory government."

Malone: "Oh, come now ... My God, you're right. I hadn't thought of that. You're absolutely right. Yes, the damage done to the NHS by our continued ideological insistence on market forces and book-keeping has almost killed the old-fashioned urge to care and tend illness, which is what the NHS should be about. "You can't quantify care. Devotion to one's patients can't be measured by accountants. The nurses are absolutely right. My God, I had never seen the truth before.

"And to think we have compounded the mess by leaving Virginia Bottomley in charge, to continue her carnage of London hospitals! What can I say? I am devastated."

5. A poll of Japanese commuters showed that more than 75 per cent of them thought they should be armed and issued with gas masks.

6. Manchester United are proposing to cash in on their popularity by issuing no less than three new playing strips before the end of the season:

a) a special Cup Final strip, showing the twin Wembley towers on the chest in suggestive positions;

b) a special non-League Champions strip in mourning black to celebrate their failure to clinch the title in 1995;

c) a special Eric Cantona kung-fu fighting kit, with the slogan on the shirt in large letters - "Cantona te casse le bras!" (Cantona breaks your arm!).

7. A Tiverton man who was operated on for a kidney ailment at Plymouth Hospital is suing the hospital for damages, although the operation was a complete success, on the grounds that the speed of treatment caused him undue stress. He says that the hospital gave him a bed as soon as the operation was deemed necessary, did not postpone the operation and had him home in two days. As everything he knew about the NHS led him to expect a postponement of at least a year and he thought he would come home with a needle or two inside him, it has completely disrupted his life.

Answer: There is no such person as Jerry Wiggins MP, who has been maliciously invented by the Labour Party PR Department.